Question About Soldering Irons

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by TomPM, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    At the request of the family I had to provide a wish list for Christmas. One of the items I would like to get is a soldering iron. Until I looked in Radio Shack I had not realized that there were different irons based on power. My question is what is a good size soldering iron to get? Any accessories that I should get?
  2. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    It will help a little if you tell what things you'll be soldering most with the iron, etc.

  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    Tom -
    As for size, it's like RS said, kinda depends on what you'll be using it for. It's probably better to be a little too big than too small, since the higher the wattage, the faster the joint will reach temperature and the less chance of the heating spreading to where you don't want it.

    As for accessories, a holder is almost a necessity - the kind with the springy-like deal that the iron goes in, and a sponge in the base that you can keep wet to clean the tips. Also, a "helping hand" thingy - the kind with flexible arms with alligator clips on the ends - can be pretty handy depending on what you're doiing.

    And don't forget solder (resin core, not acid) and flux (are those even considered accessories?).
  4. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    for about $50, you can get a soldering iron with adjustable output, stand and even a few different tips. Try looking for "weller" or "unger" soldering irons on google. Here is one I found for $42. (scroll down to "WLC100")
  5. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    25 watts is a good size for general purpose (splicing wires, soldering brass, etc.), 15 watts is better for circuit board soldering. A variable wattage iron would be best. Edsyn's are great irons, but cost about $100.
  6. TomPM

    TomPM Another Fried Egg Fan

    The type of soldering I would be doing is things like wire splicing, feeder wires to rails, and the occasional motor repair. Installing decoders are years away at my current rate of construction.
  7. pomperaugrr

    pomperaugrr Member

    I just tried out my new dual wattage soldering iron from Radio Shack last night. You can switch between 20w and 40w. I was soldering rail joiners on the 40w and never melted an n scale tie or spike. The 40w setting is great for splices, rail joiners, track feeders, etc. You can also switch to the 20w for decoders and delicate electronice. Be sure to use a very fine rosin core solder for quick solder connections. A non-acid flux also does not hurt, but I don't bother with it if I am starting with a CLEAN joint and am using rosin core solder. I think this cost me around $45 or $50.

  8. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    A "Hot Topic"

    Hey Tom, I may get some flack for saying so but the Radio Shack soldering irons in my opinion are junk.:eek: They are really low end. They take forever to heat up and then they don't maintain their heat well. They are probably OK for just occasional use but for the long haul I'd go with either the Weller or Unger brands. I noticed the other day that Home Depot was carrying Weller and that they had a rather nice selection of wattages.

    A soldering station ( a varible iron) is really nice if you are going to do a lot of electronic assembly or circuit building(where you want to use minimum heat to avoid component damage) but for use around and on the layout they are a bit cumbersome.

    Be sure to get a stand with a heavy base for your new iron rather than that flimsy piece of bent metal that comes with some irons. Besides keeping the iron from falling onto the floor:eek: it keeps the hot iron real handy.
  9. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    20 and 40 should be reasonable settings for 95% of the chores. Another method, for those who are thrifty (gee, never heard of a thrifty modeler :D), is to get an iron = or greater than as large as you'll need and use a lamp dimmer to control it. The benifit is you get infinate control and it's cheap.

    The primary drawback of larger and cheaper irons, to me, is the tips. They are usually not available in small enough sizes, usually don't last as long, and are usually either not replaceable by design, or they are screw in and soon become not replaceable by acts of corrosion. Edsyn sells anti-seize whichs helps with good or cheap tips, but it smokes/stinks for ten minutes after application.

    Of the Edsyns I mentioned, the "Loner" series is particualrly nice. The 951SX station can be had for the price of a good iron, has the stand built in, and is adjustable by temperature, which is more meaningful than wattage:

    It's what I have at work. At home I have the standard, stand alone iron, which I paid about as much as for the station :( "Most" of the time, I just use my cheap 25 watt weller, even for all the itty bitty brass stuff. The loaner would work as well or better, but I don't feel bad if I drop the weller.

    I reccommned some solder with "water wash" flux for when you are soldering new stuff, but keep some of the regular rosin flux core stuff around for when you run into some older used, dirty, or corroded stuff you need to solder.
  10. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    RS = Yugo
    Weller = Mack Truck
    Unger = Buick
    Edsyn = Caddylak

    :D :D :D

    I agree with Vic. RS is generally a rip off, with few exceptions.
  11. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Can we expand this to torches?
    I've never used one, but feel I should get one for things like sweating brass together, etc., etc.
    I'd like to pick up something not too expensive that will do the job.
  12. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    if your going to go beyond irons think about a restance soldering tool high priced but o so nice.;)
  13. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Cheap Torch

    Bill Stone, I got this one at Big Lots for $5.95. Burns butane lighter fuel and is refillable. It will burn for about an hour on one filling. It has a nice needlepoint blue flame and will sweat solder very nicely. I was surprized at how well it worked:thumb:

    Attached Files:

  14. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Thanks Vic. I've seen some like that and wondered how well they worked.
  15. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I told my wife that there was a thread here regarding which was the best soldering iron. She didn't blink an eye, and said "Weller." Now, she's not talking about those big old Weller soldering guns, but the temperature-controlled units that she has used for soldering components to printed circuit boards for around 30 years. I can solder, this lady can SOLDER so I take her word on this. :thumb:

    Over the years I'd think I was doing her a favor and buy her something new, and after a day or two I found her back to using her Weller. Her reasoning was that the Weller kept an even temperature while the others couldn't keep up with her and would cool down as she went along. Oh yeah, we still have the original Weller we bought for her when she learned to solder back in 1973, plus about a bunch more that we needed for our business over the years.

    A bit pricy, but the only one you'll ever need. And I agree about the ones from Radio Shack.


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